Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Pick Up A Pulp [66]: LONG TIME NO LEOLA by Carter Brown

This installment in the Rick Holman mystery series sees the Hollywood fixer and semi-private eye to the stars embroiled in a case involving a missing starlet, a child kidnapping, murder, arms trafficking, and a whole lot of lies and deceit. 

Sounds like this one's got a lot of depth doesn't it? 

It doesn't. 

Rather than take those pillars of a thriller/pulp mash-up mentioned above and write a decent story with some semblance of good plotting, Carter Brown, instead, takes the minimalist approach; much of the above is pure facade and about as deep as a child's wadding pool. The characters, Holman included, are as equally shallow with their dialogue seemingly written by a horny adolescent male. 

Despite my misgivings, I knew this wasn't going to be high end noir of the Chandler or Jim Thompson variety. These books are pure popcorn pulp, written for a quick form of escapism and a cheap thrill or two - and that's what I got; two or three nice takeaways from what was otherwise one very convoluted and confusing story. 

Friday, April 24, 2020

Review: MIDNIGHT IN THE GRAVEYARD edited by Kenneth W. Cain

Midnight in the Graveyard is a large (perhaps too large) collection of short stories themed around ghosts, graveyards, revenge, and murder. Whilst there are a number of standouts (Devil's Dip, Russian Dollhouse, The Cemetery Man, Portrait to name a few) there's also a few which didn't connect with me, that said, there's a little something here for everyone who likes chills and thrills, and scares and cares all wrapped in a big bundle of diverse and creepy tales.

As I read the anthology I jotted down my thoughts on each story: 

Table of contents:

Devils Dip by Shannon Felton - true horror, ghost who endlessly haunts those she's attached to. I thought it was great and a perfect way to start the anthology. 5/5

Tug 'O' War by Chard Lutzke - to be honest I can't recall too much about this, a re-read might be in order. 

Euphemia Christine by Catherine Cavendish - hauntings are a theme here, only this one is a torrid little family drama where the blood of murders' past flows down to the present. was good. 4/5

Justin's Favorite by Jeremy Helper is another ghost story with a slight twist on those that came before it in this collection with the apparition haunting those who come close to the protagonist; naturally bad things happen. I liked the emotion attached to Justin's Favorite. 4/5

Holes in the Fabric by Todd Keisling takes a look at the bloody aftermath of mass suicide and amps up the horror with some paranormal elements. 3.5/5

Dog Days by Kenneth W. Cain used an interesting concept to deliver this tale of canine madness but it just felt a little flat to me. 2/5

Drown by Hunter Shea stays true to the early theme of this anthology in having ghosts at the forefront of the story. This one is a semi-ghost hunter story which has some nice moments.  3/5

Those Who Are Terrified by Elizabeth Massie is a fun ghost story which, while having some plot holes delivers a nice little tale of three inquisitive sisters who stumble upon a ghost in need of release in a basement. 2/5

Call for Cats by William Meikle features a murderess who pays the price for interfering in the afterlife. 3/5

Russian Dollhouse by Jason Parent is a standout of the collection. An inventive Halloween horror in which 4 kids visit a seemingly abandoned house - their lives (or deaths?) won't ever be the same. 5/5 

Sawmill Road by Ronald Kelly feels like a classic 80's horror with plenty of gore and scares. Not for the squeamish. 

Bettor's Edge by Tim Meyer - a ghost who lusts for death, more sinister than first appeared. Set in a hotel room and plays on the victims gambling addiction. Was a solid supernatural revenge story. 3.5/5

The Graveyard by Lee Mountford - spooky cliche graveyard story which manages to invoke a chill or two. 3/5 

Join My Club by Somer Canon - imaginary friend or ghost? This one was a little lackluster. 1/5 

The Cemetery  Man by John Everson - graveyard fetish with a macabre twist. One of my favorites of the anthology. 5/5

New Blood, Old Skin by Glenn Rolfe - a writer reruns to his craft after an 18yr hiatus spurred on by a monster from his sons imagination. Much like Join My Club, this one didn't really hit the mark for me 2/5

The Glimmer Girls by Kenneth McKinley - wartime radiation sickness takes its toll on unassuming female workers at a watch factory. Who in turn, take their revenge on their sinister boss. Another revenge fueled ghost story where the dead conquer the living. 5/5

Haunted World by Robert McCammon has a surprising amount of depth for a shorty story; set in a strange world where ghosts walk the earth and are seen as little more than part of the furniture - until they're able to interact with the living...physically. Very cool build up with really heightens the tension. Would love to see a full length story of this concept. 5/5 

Ghost Blood by Kelli Owen - a guy who sees blood all the time (old and new)? a slasher set in an isolated drive in? Sign me up! Ghost Blood is great. 5/5

Last Call at the Sudden Death Saloon by Allan Leverone - interesting, not so much about haunting as it is murder. A Haunted town and former insane asylum serves as provides a creepy backdrop. 3.5/5

The Ring of Truth by Thomas F. Monetleone - continuing with the strong ‘revenge of the ghost’ theme, this is another where the dead hunt and kill the living. 2.5/5

The Gravedigger's Story by Katheryn Meyer Griffith - didn’t connect with this one: a trio of ghosts return to murder their killer... only the killer is already dead. 2/5

The Putpocket by Alan M. Clark - couldn't get into this one. The build up was just too slow for a short story. 1/5

Swamp Vengeance by Brian Moreland - would fit perfectly in a crime / noir collection as well as this one. A husband scorned takes revenge on his wife only to end up untied in deadly matrimony. Set in the Everglades. 5/5

Portrait by Kealan Patrick Burke is a heartbreaking and emotional end to the collection which not only tugs at the heartstrings but chills to the core. A great short story to conclude the collection. 4/5

Thursday, April 16, 2020

A Paperback From Hell! WALKERS by Graham Masterton

The only word I can think of to describe Walkers is fun; the concept, characters, and plot are just a joy to read and whilst the book firmly resides in the horror genre, readers who like their fiction a little less gory will definitely have a good time with this one.

Despite a somewhat misleading title which lends itself towards the walking dead/zombies, Walkers is about a bunch of criminally insane patients who disappear one day from a now long abandoned asylum - only they didn't leave the premises, rather, these bunch of violent crazies hid beneath the floor's surface and within the very walls of the asylum they called their home/prison - pretty cool if you ask me.

The plot centers around Jack Reed, a businessman who wants to convert said derelict asylum into a country club/resort; the only problem is - there's, you know, criminally insane people LIVING SIDE THE WALLS! Naturally things go pear shaped when he, his young son, and semi-mistress go looking at the property and in no time, the horrors of the haunted become all too real for Jack.

I don't really need to write anymore about this book - if you see it in a used bookstore, don't think twice - buy the damned thing and enjoy.   

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

A Paperback From Hell! CANNIBALS by Guy N Smith

There was a hint of Jack Ketchum's Off Season about this inbred cannibal tale set among a backdrop of isolation and ignorance. Not only is there stomach churning gore and nightmare inducing feeding scenes but there's also a deranged and disturbing form of copulation and an omnipresent threat of dread throughout; some of the hallmarks of Ketchum's similarly-themed book. 

I'm a big fan of Guy N Smith's horror (Accursed is one of my favorites) and this book did not disappoint. The tension was intense, the characters developed just enough to care about(only just - but that's okay given most end up as dismembered meat set to boil), and the setting and plot equally well defined and written. 

The sheer ignorance of the small town community which, for hundreds of years harbored the deformed inbred populace is at once frustrating to read and a brilliant plot device (you really want the cannibals to eat each and every one of them). When some of those townsfolk meat (get it?) their end, the result is nothing short of satisfying.  

The stars of the show, those crudely malformed and murderous mountain dwelling cannibals, are truly menacing. Everything about them screams scary; the way they look (the cover to this edition is 100% accurate), their limited forms of communication and intelligence, to their hunter-gatherer nature; it's a brutal and efficient storytelling technique to scare the living daylight out of the reader. 

Cannibals is one of the best horror novels I've read - I only wish Guy N Smith wrote more! 

Saturday, April 11, 2020

A Paperback From Hell! Let's Go Play at the Adams'

Well, that escalated quickly... 

The only published novel by Mendal W. Johnson (he wrote 8 or 9 which went unpublished (source: Grady Hendrix - 2020 Valancourt edition introduction)) doesn't mess around. Forget the slow and steady plot devices of some horror novels which build tension and suspense over chapter after chapter. No. Johnson dips his characters into the melting pot straight away and the story is all the more better for it.

The freshly new minted edition published by Valancourt Books in 2020 as part of the second wave of Paperbacks from Hell reprints is all a horror enthusiast could want and includes a bonus intro by Paperback From Hell author Grady Hendrix

Brenda is a picture perfect image of beauty, youth, and vitality, hired by the Adams' parentals to babysit their children (Cindy 10 and Bobby 13) for a few days while they travel out of town. Who could've predicted a child's game among Cindy's and Bobby's friends could turn so very adult. Certainly not Brenda - who, in no time at all is gagged, tied, stripped naked, and at the mercy of Brenda, Cindy, and their group of friends. 

Other reviews of this book have mentioned that the events (particularly the later stages) will haunt the reader long after they've turned the last page of Let's Go Play at the Adams', and after finally getting to read the book (originally published in 1974) I echo this; this book is a sojourn down the torrid path of depravity in which horror bleeds into the literary realm leaving a long lasting coppery taste of blood in the mouth of the reader. 

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Book of the Month [March 2020]

(Dean Koontz' The Eyes of Darkness - the 'hype' book of the pandemic)

In these ever increasingly hard times, it's important to take stock of what's important and enjoy the little things. Reading for me has always been a form of escapism from the daily grind, and now in a world in the midst of a pandemic, that escapism is even more important. 

These monthly blog posts are turning into somewhat of a journal which is okay by me. January spoke to the horrific fires across Australia (of which I was fortunate enough to avoid), February was pure bookish innocence (reading the tone of that post) and upbeat hope. Now, as we enter the fourth month of 2020, the world is a different place - and one which will leave a long lasting scar on the lives of billions.

But life (and reading) must go on! 

In March I read 13 books; that's now three months straight of reading 13 books - must be my lucky number, which is fitting given my book for the month is, once again, a horror novel. This time it's The Pariah by Graham Masterton - a book which ticks all the boxes for horror junkies such as myself. 

From my review:
The Pariah fulfills all your horror needs and them some; ghosts, the reanimated dead, hauntings, demonic lore, and scares a-plenty.
From the blurb:
The quaint little seaside town of Granitehead seemed like a perfect place for John and Jane Trenton to start their life together. But disaster strikes and Jane and their unborn child are killed. John's grief is total, so when he starts to see the ghostly apparition of his wife he almost welcomes this supernatural phenomenon. Yet all is not what it seems, and this sinister spirit is not Jane, but something altogether evil and terrifying. In a bid to rid himself of this horrific spectre he soon finds that many more in the town have been victims of unwanted visitations. And when he discovers the body of a local busybody, impossibly impaled on a still hanging chandelier, he knows something must be done. But how do you kill the undead? As he searches for an explanation he uncovers a link to a mysterious ship, lost around the time of the nearby Salem witch trials. For three centuries the rotting wreck of the David Dark has lain beneath waves, but an awful secret is concealed in the chill waters...

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Review: THE PARIAH by Graham Masterton

"I know new something else..something terrifying...these apparitions had the power to do strange and horrible things. Not only the power, but the will."

The Pariah fulfills all your horror needs and them some; ghosts, the reanimated dead, hauntings, demonic lore, and scares a-plenty. 

Granitehead is a small coastal town with a deadly secret, one that steadily surfaces as the story progresses; deceased loved ones can be seen by their significant others in lightning flashes and quick glimpses, objects move on their own, and voices can be heard on the cold air. For John Trenton, the sight of he recently deceased wife brings a concoction of terror and elation - until a grisly murder sways his feelings firmly towards terror. 

Cold, atmospheric, and engaging. The Pariah reads like you're watching a high grade horror film; everything just works. 
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